FORT MEADE, Md. -- The Army recently issued a directive to reduce the financial burden for spouses who wish to continue their professional careers after they move to a new duty station.
The policy allows spouses to be reimbursed up to $500 for qualified relicensing costs that result from a permanent change of station or assignment to a different state.
"Our spouses are lawyers, nurses, teachers, cosmetologists and real estate agents," said Dee Geise, who works in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. "It eases part of the stress of the cost associated with relicensing after a PCS move."
Instructions on how to apply for reimbursement can be found in the all Army activities, or ALARACT, message 036/2019 and will eventually be on the Military OneSource website.
Reimbursement is available to spouses of Soldiers in all three components and will be retroactive to Dec. 12, 2017, when the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 was signed into law.
Qualified costs include exam and registration fees required by the state, where the new duty station is located, for a license or certification for the same profession a spouse had before moving.
"So if your new real estate license in North Carolina is $250, then the Army will reimburse up to the $250 cost," Geise said.
For spouses who work at Army childcare centers, the service is developing another initiative that aims to retain their training, pay and ensure a job is waiting for them when they move to a new installation.
"If they're working in a childcare center at Fort Belvoir [in Virginia] and PCS to Fort Hood [in Texas], they should move right into a job without going through the reapplication process," she said.
At a family forum in February, Army Secretary Mark T. Esper said he also supported the idea for more spouses to run childcare businesses from home, which could even shorten waitlists at the main centers.
When he came onboard last year, Esper said it took the Army an average of 134 days for a civilian to be hired. His goal is lower that to 60 days.
"You can see the challenge," he said. "No one is going to wait 134 days or by the time you do another opportunity has come before you or it's time to [move] again."
Spouses who are teachers also experience a lengthy re-hiring process. While some just have to wait a month to move into a new job, others wait six months or even the next school year to start, Geise said.
"We have so many wonderful spouse teachers that should be able to quickly move into a teaching job when they move," she said. "It is expensive and it is time consuming."
The Defense State Liaison Office, she noted, is doing a lot of work toward state reciprocity to speed up re-licensing and re-certification efforts for military spouses.
"They've made some gains there," she said. "They're doing a really great job helping states understand the stresses on a spouse when he or she moves to another state and gaining employment."
A "spouse licensure map" showing progress of interstate compacts that support license portability can be found on the Military OneSource website.
Spouses who want to pursue their first license, credential or associate degree may check out the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts Program. The program offers up to $4,000 in scholarships to spouses of Soldiers in paygrades E-1 to E-5, W-1 and W-2, and O-1 and O-2.
Financial assistance can only be used for approved portable careers found on the Military OneSource website, which include jobs in aerospace, education, energy, health, hospitality, legal and skilled trades, among others.
Another option, the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, prepares spouses to be "job ready" applicants and connects them to companies. The partnership now has nearly 400 partners that have hired over 130,000 military spouses.
"It started in the Army; now it is a defense-wide program," Geise said. "They work with corporations, large and small, to help spouses find portable jobs."
Army Community Service centers on installations also operate the Employment Readiness Program, which can assist spouses in finding and preparing for jobs as well as volunteer opportunities.
As a former Army spouse, Geise said she is proud of the steps the Army and Defense Department are taking to make it easier for today's spouses.
"I, too, had to start all over again," she said. "I, too, had to worry about what state required what from me when I moved. I, too, had to worry about the application process and if I was ever going to be able to get my foot in the door.
"I'm really excited about not only the license reimbursement issue, but also all the things we're doing to help our spouses maintain their careers while their service member maintains their career as well."